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Mezuzah

From Academic Kids

In Judaism, a mezuzah (Hebrew מזוזה literally "doorpost", plural: mezuzot) is a small case affixed to the doorpost of Jewish homes, synagogues, and business establishments. The case generally features the Hebrew letter ש inscribed on its upper exterior, and serves to protect a small scrolled piece of parchment (called a klaf), on which is inscribed several Bible verses. Halakha (Jewish law) prescribes in detail the affixing of mezuzot on doorposts. Since almost every Jewish home has a mezuzah on its front doorpost, it has historically been a means of recognition in times of persecution.

The parchment contains two short portions from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21) which specifically command the practice of affixing the mezuzah. The passages are written in Hebrew.

Contents

Affixing the mezuzah

According to halakha the case should be placed on the right side of the door (from point of view of one entering the building or room) on the lower part of the upper third of the doorpost (or around shoulder height for high doorways), within approximately 3 inches of a doorway opening. The case should be permanently affixed with nails, screws, glue, or strong double-sided tape. Ashkenazi Jews tilt the case (in commemoration of the fact that the Temple is destroyed) so that the top slants toward the room the door opens into, but other Jews place the case vertically.

The procedure is to hold the mezuzah against the spot upon which it will be affixed, then recite a blessing, which translates as "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot, and commanded us to affix a mezuzah." After the blessing is made, the mezuzah is attached. When affixing many mezuzot, the blessing is made only before affixing the first mezuzah, while keeping the others in mind.

Observant Jews affix mezuzot on all the doors of their homes with the exception of bathrooms or very small rooms (e.g., closets).

Writing the scroll

The rendering of the Hebrew text on the scroll is a matter requiring great care. Each letter must be written precisely, preferably by a certified sofer (scribe), as one letter written incorrectly would render the scroll invalid (pasul). As there are twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the scripture is written in a single column on 22 scored lines. On the reverse is written Shaddai, one of the names of God. The parchment is then rolled into a scroll, (evoking the image of a Torah scroll) such that the first words "Shema Yisrael" ("Hear O Israel...") will be read first upon unrolling.

Text of the scroll

In English translation, the Torah verses are:

Hear O Israel, God our Lord is God the Only One. You shall love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your power. These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them to your children and you shall speak about them when you dwell in your house, when you travel on the road, when you lie down and when you arise. You shall tie them as a sign on your arm and as a head ornament between your eyes. You shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your home and your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

and

And it shall happen, if you obey my commandments which I command you today, to love God within all your hearts and all your souls that I will give the rains of the land in its proper time, the light rains and the heavy rains, and you will gather your grain, your wine and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock. You will have enough to eat and you will be satisfied. Guard yourselves, lest your hearts lead you astray and you will serve other gods and you will bow to them. God will then become angry with you and will withhold the rain, and the land will not produce its bounty. You will quickly be lost from upon the good land that God has granted you. You shall place these words on your hearts and on your souls. You shall tie them as a sign on your arms and they shall be head ornaments between your eyes, and you shall teach them to your children to speak about them when you dwell in your house, when you travel on the road, when you lie down and when you arise. You shall inscribe them on the doorpost of your houses and your gates. So that you and your children may live many years on the land that God has promised to your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:13-21)

Checking the scroll

Because the scroll is tightly wound, it is easy for letters to become cracked or flake off entirely. As a scroll with a cracked or missing letter is no longer considered valid, halakha mandates that every scroll must be checked by a sofer (scribe) twice every seven years, to ensure that it has not been damaged.

Customs

When passing through a doorway with a mezuzah, Jews touch the mezuzah and kiss their fingers, as an expression of devotion to Torah.

The outside artistic case of Mezuzahs are sometimes given as wedding gifts, and gifts for other special occasions.

See also

List of Jewish Prayers and Blessings

External links

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